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Posts Tagged ‘dialogue’

A few weeks ago, I published a series of blog posts that ask the question, “Why don’t marketing leaders manage ‘demand’ as an operational process.”  I noted the core challenge for many B2B marketing leaders is we simply do not build, manage or optimize demand “… as an operational, repeatable and sustainable process.”  Sure we have marketing processes, but mostly they are periodic, ‘activity-based’ (and over-complicated) processes, focused on the planning and production of things such as content and events.

What we fail to conceptualize is the more holistic, perpetual process of continuously moving buyers from their earliest lead state to a revenue close – i.e., a true, central ‘outcome-based’ process.  Moreover, we never really take a step back and consider that all of our other marketing and sales processes should be rationalized, optimized and simplified against this central process.  In fact, when we take this point of view, it explains much of the disconnect that exists between marketing and sales.  For decades, B2B marketers have produced campaigns, and B2B sales team members have produced revenue.  The two could not be more diametrically opposed.

The perspective fortunately is changing.  With 72% of marketing automation ‘top performers’ reporting their number-one goal today is to increase revenue, according to Gleanster, the r-word increasingly is top of the agenda for B2B marketers.  And an increasing number of B2B companies large and small are measuring marketing performance via – or at least asking initial questions that drive toward – a revenue basis.  Marketing campaigns and content increasingly are being built with the buyer’s content needs during the buying process in mind.  And as I mentioned in my previous blog post, thanks to marketing automation technology, we are no longer challenged when it comes to the technology to track our buyer’s interactions with our content and programs.

So you would think we would have all the right ingredients to succeed with perpetual B2B demand generation – to build, manage and optimize literal lead-to-revenue factories.  But no.

Our drive towards a managed demand process continues to fall apart at execution.

As it turns out, getting our stream of inbound and outbound buyer education working in tandem with our lead qualification efforts, automating everything and getting everyone on the marketing and sales team partnering and operating on a continuous basis around this process … well that’s where we still struggle.

Fortunately, there is a better way.

The key to a managed demand process and to operating perpetual B2B demand generation is adopting a new approach – a new mindset, if you will.  It is one that I call “demand process stewardship.”

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On Friday I published a new post to the Silverpop Demand Generation (DG) blog — one that responded to the comment thread on Jep Castelein’s Lead Sloth post, “Will Marketing Automation Be Free?”  My DG post placed this dialogue in the context of what I believe really are the major challenges facing B2B demand generation today.  I also linked this back to the very-timely four-part series on the ‘real state’ of demand generation I published on this blog this past week.

The DG post argues that much of the discussion around ‘freemium models’ in the marketing automation space right now is potentially focusing on the wrong challenge:

What struck me about this ‘freemium model’ dialogue is that it is semantically interesting, but fundamentally focused in the wrong place.  As important as your choice of marketing automation technology provider is — and it is important — I’d argue that the stumbling block for most B2B marketers attempting to take their demand generation to the next level is not access to the technology, itself.  So giving it away for free doesn’t necessarily improve adoption rates.

The major obstacle today for the next generation of B2B demand generation is actually the ‘people and processes’ that must be in place to successfully leverage marketing automation technology.  And this is a point backed up by stacks of recent research reports and commentaries by some of the best and brightest in B2B marketing today.

The focus of my post then shifts to what we can do about this, and I argue (from the perspective of my role at Silverpop), that it is critical for marketing automation technology vendors to play a catalytic role in improving the state of ‘people and processes’ among B2B marketers.  “We have to pay it forward,” I noted.  We are still in single-digit-percentage adoption of marketing automation, and we’re past selling to early adopters.  The future growth of the marketing automation space, thus, is going to be closely linked to evolution of skills and approaches among mainstream B2B marketers.

The post highlights the B2B marketing programs and education Silverpop has contributed to the marketplace during my current tenure at Silverpop.  It provides updates on the Fall 2011 B2B Marketing University (B2BMU) series, as well as links to all of Silverpop’s blog content on demand generation since launching the B2BMU series.  So it’s a good combination of commentary, data and also resources for closing the gap.

Click here to read the full DG post.

And in case you missed any of my series, “The Unspoken ‘Real State’ of Modern B2B Demand Generation,” here are links to all four parts:

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Earlier today I published a new post to the Silverpop Demand Generation blog — one that looks at the next phase of dialogue around content marketing for B2B demand generation.

The post opens by recounting the ‘first evolution’ of content marketing — i.e., the evolution of the topic up until recently:

The last year has brought growing dialogue around content marketing as an integral component of modern B2B demand generation.

First, we’ve seen increasing acknowledgement that, in a Web 2.0 world, the dynamics of the B2B buyer are shifting and that at the core of these new dynamics are fundamental shifts in buyers’ information consumption patterns.  Buyers are doing more education on their own, ahead of speaking with a salesperson.  Second, this has occurred in tandem with growing interest among B2B marketers both with inbound marketing strategies for lead generation and with marketing automation as a central platform for nurturing B2B prospects in a buyer-driven fashion.

Content marketing is the architecture behind information exchanged with the buyer before we can get them to ’sales ready’; it is the rationalization of what content that our prospective buyers need at various stages of the buying cycle and via what media and channels; and it is integral to the nurturing process.  Content thus has moved from tactical to strategic.

It then asks, ‘So what’s next for the dialogue around content marketing?’

Now we are entering a second phase of dialogue and evolution around content marketing, where we’re talking about how to take it forward.

The post then analyzes three emerging dialogue threads around content marketing, its integration with marketing automation and its role in modern, buyer-centric B2B demand generation — also citing a number of marketing experts, such as content marketing ‘guru’ Joe Pulizzi, and relaying their perspectives on this evolving topic.

These threads are:

  • Building out the new era of dynamic, buyer-driven content marketing campaigns
  • Closing the loop so that it’s clear what content has impact and how to tune your content mix
  • Developing the right skill set and building the right team to effectively manage your B2B organization’s content marketing ‘machine’

 Click here to read the full post.

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Over the last 7 months I’ve been very focused in my research on the dynamics of how B2B marketing is changing — particularly the increasing importance of developing buyer-centered marketing strategies and programs.  (In fact, this week I’m speaking at a B2B Magazine event in London about new ways to drive B2B e-mail marketing programs based on behavioral/implicit factors, versus standard demographics.)

The broader evolution of B2B marketing has been accompanied by new challenges and opportunities, and in some cases these have driven the emergence of completely new marketing disciplines.

Content marketing is just such a discipline.  Whereas marketing content has always been with us, I submit that modern content marketing is something altogether new — an evolutionary approach to engaging buyers with buying-stage-relevant information and a response to several rapidly-changing B2B marketing dynamics.

What has led to this emergence?  And what are the implications for this new discipline?

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I’ve been actively speaking over the past few weeks about a new strategic mindset I believe B2B marketers should adopt today — a ‘mass one-to-one’ strategy.  This is a posture where marketing manages scale, targeted, engaged and two-way dialogue with prospects, upstream from sales-team interaction and ultimately with the purpose of paving the way for a sales close.  This is much more than mere lead generation; moreover, the growing need for such a strategy really is the natural extension of my recent observations about how the nature of the B2B buyer is changing and the permanent shift this is affecting in the roles of both sales and marketing team members.

The intent of a mass one-to-one strategy is to close an emerging sales-cycle gap — where the buyer is seeking information and having dialogue about a purchase, but is doing so on his/her own terms, mostly online (including via social media) and prior to ever engaging a sales team member.  The strategy thus attempts to fill this gap by having marketing replicate and replace some of the engaged, ‘customer-centered selling’ interaction a sales team member might have pursued before the nature of the buyer began changing.  The strategy focuses more on initially responding to ‘pull’ and initial ‘inbound’ activity and on conforming to the buyer’s cycle than on driving interruptive ‘push’ tactics.  This means knowing the buyer better than ever before.  It also means marketing has a more strategic … and complex … role than ever before.

Why 'Personas' Are the Secret Sauce for Effective Marketing Automation Campaigns and the Key to Achieving a 'Mass One-to-one' Strategy

Source: iStockphoto

The good news is that the same Internet that brought this change also is fostering new tools to respond to it.  By embracing a holistic lead management strategy and by deploying a robust marketing automation platform, marketers can get start to get some control.  In fact, mass one-to-one sounds great and is more achievable once you have technology like this in place.  Yet most marketers will admit that the idea of building an endless number of dynamic, anticipatory, customer-triggered campaigns for some infinite number of customer types and scenarios is daunting.  Where do you stop?  How do you get any economies of scale?  Such a commitment of time and resources — without limits — can result in a declining return that does not match the investment. 

So how do we get our arms around this ‘brave new world’ of B2B marketing and get going with mass one-to-one without blowing a gasket?  In particular, how do we focus our marketing automation campaigns to get the most bang for our buck? 

I believe the answer — the ‘secret sauce’ — more than ever is personas. 

Yes, personas.  Let me explain …

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I’ve been actively writing and presenting over the last few months on the changing B2B marketing landscape. And I’ll be talking more about this subject throughout the Fall at the B2B Marketing University series that I’m hosting together with my colleagues at Silverpop (please join us).

A great deal of the focus of my dialogue so far has been on the evolution of marketing technology, but it’s impossible to talk about a changing environment for marketing technology without talking about how the nature of the B2B buyer also is rapidly changing. The two are inextricably intertwined in a new reality that is both a cause and effect of the digital age we live in.

Source:  iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

But where is the hard data that this evolution is really occurring? We’re changing how we go to market — and there is plenty of data pointing to shifting spending by marketers — but how do we know that our shifted spending will better align with B2B buyers’ shifting needs and preferences?

There are quite a few data points that support this evolution; however, they’re often difficult to unearth. Often they are buried or confused within consumer-focused studies on buying trends, and sometimes the consumer data even contradicts the B2B reality. Marketing technology analyst and author David Raab hit on this in a recent round-up of many of these ‘mixed’ consumer/B2B surveys on his Customer Experience Matrix blog. And a major call-out from his piece was just this discrepancy: “Many [data points] are contradictory …,” commented Raab.

So how do we better articulate the unique and changing nature of the B2B buyer — separate from the broader consumer perspective? How do we nail down (real) evidence that the nature of the B2B buyer has changed?

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The prevailing wisdom in marketing today is that achieving the greatest levels of performance requires true, closed-loop, customer-level insight into the effectiveness of marketing programs.  If you can see a detailed, causal chain through the complete demand-generation process and correlate steps and interactions in that chain to account-level customer spending, you can then analyze how various marketing activities contribute to final results.  Further, if you can analyze your marketing at such a granular level, you can tie spending to specific outcomes and can continuously tune your overall marketing formula at all levels.

I’ve touched on this imperative in past blog posts.  So no argument here.  In fact, as a tenured marketer (and now as a team member at a marketing technology company), it’s exciting to look around and witness the rapid evolution in marketing technology that is moving us closer to this reality.

It also goes without saying that in this environment, plenty is written about the drive for marketing accountability. 

Yet there is something subtle that gets missed and that I would argue should be the greater focus in the accountability dialogue.  It is the inherent and holistic upside for marketers of having an accountability mindset – i.e., the positive transformation that results from embracing a new approach to marketing.

I call it the ‘halo effect’ of marketing accountability.

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